How to Cure Jock Itch
Ah, wonderful. It’s Friday and you’ve got big plans over the weekend to hit the weight room/squash court/climbing gym. But wait, why so itchy? Courtesy of your athletic exploits, you’ve got a red, scaly rash plaguing your inner thighs and, even better, your groin area. Don’t stress — it's just jock itch. Yes, it’s deeply uncomfortable and looks like hell, but relief awaits.
First Off, What’s Jock Itch?
If you want to bring up the red rash plaguing your junk at the dinner table, be sure to refer to it by its scientific name, tinea cruris. This pesky fungus really likes growing in warm, moist areas like your balls. Sorry to be blunt about it, but we don’t make the rules around here. Tinea cruris, which already lives full-time on your skin, makes the rules.
And the first rule is that this dermatophyte fungus otherwise known as jock itch loves multiplying on sweaty, unshowered man parts, which is how it got its name — jock itch tends to plague the athletic among us, though it will also happily rear its red and scaly head on the merely sweaty, the overweight (it tends to get cozy in the extra skin folds), and dudes prone to eczema.
Is Jock Itch the Same Fungus as Ringworm?
Sure is! Even more fun: there are multiple types of ringworm. Jock itch is just one of them. If you’re a dude who wrestles competitively, you might be familiar with the kind of ringworm you can pick up from the mats or directly from your opponent. That one’s called tinea corporis, in case you’re looking to add not just one but two scientific fungal names to your athletic vocabulary. And athlete’s foot? Tinea pedis. Also, while we’re here — ringworm isn’t a worm. It’s just prone to giving you a rash in a ring-like pattern. In case that makes you feel any better.
Symptoms of Jock Itch
Speaking of feelings, here’s how jock itch physically manifests: the fungal infection usually starts off as a red, itchy rash in the groin area or inner thighs, often in a round or half-moon shape. Left unchecked, the affected area may crack, flake, or peel, or progress to blisters. In addition to itching, you might experience a burning sensation. We know, this sounds awful. It is. Read on for mitigating your risk factors and how to finally cure this sucker.
Jock Itch Risk Factors
As the name implies, dude athletes are prone to jock itch thanks to a tendency to regularly break a sweat right in the areas of the body where this fungal infection likes to grow.
There also seems to be a connection between being prone to eczema and susceptibility to jock itch. If this is you, we’re sorry, that sucks.
Diabetics and folks with a weakened immune system also tend to experience higher risk of jock itch.
Contrary to popular belief, you’re pretty unlikely to pick up this fungus from gym locker rooms. Ditto for public showers (though we recommend a pair of flip flops for avoiding athlete’s foot). What’s more important, in said locker rooms and while showering, is making sure you don’t accidentally switch towels with the dude next to you, because yes, jock itch is contagious.
We’re also reluctant to call “not showering” a “risk factor,” though should you choose not to bathe repeatedly after exercising to the point of breaking a sweat, this will help foster the warm and wet inviting environment jock itch loves so very much. Your call.
On a similar note, tight clothes aren’t an unavoidable risk factor, but they do help keep things sweaty, chafing, and airless on the exact parts of your body where jock itch likes to grow. And if you’re dealing with a case of jock itch due to any of the other reasons listed here, ditch the skinny jeans and tight underwear for the duration of your treatment.
Which brings us to…
Jock Itch Treatment and Relief
Now for some good news. It's usually fairly simple to diagnose jock itch without having to seek healthcare. Having pinpointed why your poor scrotum is so uncomfortable, you can scratch your way to your nearest drugstore, where help awaits. There are a few over-the-counter jock itch remedies to choose from, which come in the form of creams, lotions, powder, and sprays.
The most common topical antifungal is called clotrimazole — look for a brand name like Lotrimin, Lamisil, or Mycelex. Carefully wash and dry the affected area before application, which you can do once or twice per day, usually for a couple weeks. For added relief, you can also layer a zinc oxide cream (good for a variety of skin conditions and a great addition to your skin care arsenal) over the clotrimazole, and while you’re in treatment, wear loose-fitting cotton boxers or boxer-briefs.
Tips and Home Remedies for Jock Itch
In tandem with any antifungal medications, you’re going to want to hit most of this checklist to banish ringworm for good:
- Start showering regularly after exercise if you aren't already doing this. And dry yourself off well — everywhere.
- If you can't full-body shower, at least clean your crotch with mild soap and water.
- Always use a clean towel.
- Wash your workout clothes after every use.
- Don’t re-wear athletic supporters without washing those, either.
- If you’re a swimmer, change out of your wet bathing suit as soon as you can.
- If you’re prone to sweating or absolutely can’t hit the showers after a workout, cleansing wipes followed by a drying powder are the next best solution.
When to Get Medical Advice for Jock Itch
Like many skin infections, jock itch can typically be addressed by over-the-counter treatments. However, if you have a compromised immune system or your skin rash doesn't seem to be responding to an over-the-counter lotion, seek treatment from your GP or a dermatologist. Ditto if you’ve let the jock itch have the run of your groin area and upper thighs for an excessively long time before finally hitting it with antifungal cream. If you’ve indeed let a fungal infection move in and get comfortable upon your body, please don’t hesitate to seek medical care to finally get the eviction process in motion.
Otherwise, jock itch should clear up within a few weeks. Just remember, stay clean, stay dry, and for the love of all that is holy, wash your workout gear.